Balls to use

Ray Bowers
  [Acrylic Ball]
Balls to use


The following are some comments I have sent people in e-mails when discussing what type of balls to use and where to get them. I get these questions a lot and figured I could at least start this part by copy/pasting the text here... Eventually I would like to come back and add more talking about the different characteristics of balls and which are better for what purpose. Size, weight, texture, material, etc... That will be for later when I have started to make progress on the other important sections though!

Many people ask about ball sizes, weights and stuff. I think an acrylic, silicone or other heavy ball would be best. The weight is important. You want to really feel the ball set down into you hand. A tennis ball for example is too light, it bounces right off your arm. The added weight of a silicone, acrylic or metal ball helps establish a connection with the ball, so you when you move your arm, the ball moves too.

Here is a listing of the sizes, weights & approximate costs of some balls I pulled off various sites to give an idea of how heavy they are:

TypeSize Mass Cost ($US)
Arcylic3" 275 grams $24-$25
Arcylic2.75" 212 grams $21-$22
Arcylic2.5" 159 grams $15
Silicone3" 270 grams $48
Silicone2.75" 210 grams $42
Silicone2.5" 157 grams $36
Silicone2.25" 114 grams $33
Filled Stage Balls2 7/8" 182 grams $12.50
Filled Stage Balls2 5/8" 135 grams $10.50
Filled Stage Balls2 3/8" 102 grams $9.50
Hollow Stage Balls4" 170 grams $6-10
Hollow Stage Balls3.5" 155 grams $8-9
Hollow Stage Balls3" 130 grams $7-8
Lacrosse2.56" 170 grams $7
Pool ball2.25" 6 oz $??

Aboves sizes are for the ball diameter.

3" acrylic balls are about $24 to $25 (US dollars) I think. I prefer acrylics because of the weight! I can feel the ball sit into my hand. I can establish a conneciton with and control it. Something you just will not be able to do with a tennis ball. Of course, wanting something with a little mass to it can be taken too far. I have tried a solid glass ball and it was way too heavy for me.

These balls are also very durable. I have never had one break, although I did crack one. The crack was about an inch across but over the years, never got any bigger, even when I was force bouncing it off of a polished marble floor. Acrylics get scratched a little, but the scratches polish out great. I've had some balls for about 7 years now. I polish them once or twice a year and they look wonderful. Just don't go throwing it around on concrete and stuff and you will be fine.

I have also seen acrylics in other colors, some with bubbles, and all sorts of stuff. However, keep in mind, while appearance is nice, the primary reasons I like acrylics are the weight, texture and durability.

Silicone balls are also wonderful! They bounce well so if you drop one and are on a hard surface, they will bounce up and you don't have to bend over to pick it up! They are about the same weight as acrylics, and have a great feel, but they are nearly twice the cost as arcylic balls. A 3" ball can run $48 or so. Available in lots of colors and sizes. Definitely not for the penny pinching juggler . . .

Stage balls are nice, cheap ($7 - $8?) and come in more sizes and colors, but the weight is not too good. These are hollow vinyl balls in a variety of colors and sizes. Because they are hollow and made of a light material, when you try to catch them on your hand or arm, they feel like they almost bounce off, not solidly staying where you want them. When doing the basic butterfly move, the ball will have more of a tendancy to fly off your fingers. While they are a very inexpensive prop and decent choice for loaning to friends to play with, I really feel the weight will make learning the basics harder. If you get one of these to learn on, I suggest getting a half inch larger than you would get an acrylic or silicone ball. A 3.5" stage ball is a little more than half the weigth of a 3" acrylic.

While stage balls are not good for basic contact juggling, I think they are great for learning body rolls. When trying to roll a ball around your body, say up one arm, across your back, down the the other, you want to start with a large ball and work your way down. The move iss easy with a a basket ball, but gets harder as you approach a 3" size. I have a 4" stage ball and even larger rythmic gymnastics balls for practicing bady rolls with... Start with the easier large balls and work your way down to the the smaller ones as you get batter. This is a good example of why no one ball will suit all needs. However, unless specifically noted, I generally talk to contact juggling here, not body rolls, multiple ball patterns or anything like that.

Other materials. You are certainly not limited to balls you find at juggling vendors. Acrylic, silicone and stage balls are just a start. Pool balls work nice in that they have great weight but are a bit on the small side. Lacrosse balls are not bad, and also pretty cheap. Chinesse exercise balls are typically too small, often not even 2" in diameter. Hollow glass christmas ornaments are too light and prone to fly off your hand. Make sure you have enough money on you if you should play around with one of these in the store some day... (ooops)

Sizes. 3" is about best for most people for typical contact juggling. For younger kids, or someone petite, 2.75" or 2.5" balls may be preferrable. Just beware when getting a ball too small for contact juggling, it makes the rolls harder to control. You do not want to use anything so small that your hand dwarfs the ball.

Besides regular contact juggling, smaller balls, like 2.5", are great for palm spinning (spinning 2, 3 or 4 balls in one hand). Larger balls however, like 4", are better for full arms rolls.

For what I do, I prefer 3" acrylics or silicones. When I want a real work out, I play with a 4" acrylic, but the weight is so much I have quite a bit of problems with some moves. But, your choice should depend on what you feel comfortable with and what type of movements you plan on working on. Focus on a good weight and size and it will make your practice much easier! After you have mastered how to do the moves it will be much easier to then play with other balls . . .

Where to get balls? You can get most of these balls from a variety of different vendors. Below is a list of the major ones I have ordered stuff from in alphabetical order, or you can check the JIS for a store near you!

All of these places do mail order and should ship overseas. I am sorry, but I have not dealt with any vendors outside of the US and am not sure about prices or availibility in other markets. If anyone has suggestions, please write and I will consider adding them.


Contact Juggling - Balls to Use / Top of Tutorial / / September 19, 1999